STATEN ISLAND, NY — A Jewish Community Center in Staten Island, NY, has made changes to its policies even before it opens next month. The changes came after Orthodox Jewish members expressed concerns about some of the facility's policies, especially about the JCC being open on Saturday, which is the Jewish Sabbath. On Saturdays, Orthodox Jews are not allowed to work, exchange money, exercise to the point of exertion, or start or stop electrical equipment such as treadmills.

While the JCC in the community of Seaview, NY, will remain open on Saturdays, management agreed to set separate hours for women and men in the pool, to implement a system so that no money changes hands on Saturdays and to not schedule any Saturday sporting events at the fitness center.

By remaining open on Saturdays, the 115,000-square-foot JCC can offer recreation opportunities to members of all faiths and backgrounds, says Ruth Lasser, spokesperson for the JCC.

“Not all of our members are Orthodox Jews or are Jewish,” she says. “The vast majority of our Jewish members are thrilled that the opportunity will exist for them to participate in recreational programming in a Jewish environment on a day when most of them are not working.”

The JCC worked with the community to get approval for its Saturday operating hours, she says.

“Our board of directors and executive staff were very wise to work with the local rabbis and open the dialogue with them early so there would not be any surprises,” Lasser says. “Everyone had an opportunity to put forward their thoughts and come to an understanding on what would be the best for the overall community and the community at large.”